Gear Guy

Q:

What Are the Best Four-Season Tents?

Can I use my three-season tent in the snow? Or should I cough up the money for a four-season model?

What Are the Best Four-Season Tents?

Photo: Mighty Sequoia Studio/Shutterstock.com

A:

Nothing beats camping in the quiet winter landscape—and it’s not as cold as you’d think, as long as you bed down in a four-season tent. These tents are built specifically to withstand the rigors of that fourth season, with a sturdy construction designed to shed snow as well as insulate, stop wind, and release moisture from inside the shelter. (You breath out as much as a liter of water as you sleep, so you don’t want to awake to a micro weather pattern inside the tent.) While you can make do with a three-season tent in calm weather, you won't regret the extra investment.

When shopping for Nor’easter-proof tents, try a few to see how easy they are to pitch; You don’t want to fiddle with a needlessly complicated system of guy wires and poles in inclement weather. And look for high-quality poles: all the following tents source poles from the same company in South Korea, DAC, which has figured out how to make their high-tech designs more than 15 percent stronger than ordinary aluminum poles. As a basis of comparison, we chose two-person tents.

Big Agnes String Ridge 2
Mountain Hardwear Trango 2
Sierra Designs Convert 2
Marmot Alpinist 2P
Black Diamond Firstlight

Big Agnes String Ridge 2

Big Agnes String Ridge 2 four season tents outside gear guy bob parks
Big Agnes String Ridge 2   Photo: Courtesy of Big Agnes

The String Ridge 2 from Big Agnes delivers a four-season tent that has just two poles and weighs a mere five pounds. Its taped seams and silicone-treated, rip-stop nylon keeps the shelter dry even in freezing rain. $600

MINIMUM TRAIL WEIGHT: 5 pounds
FLOOR AREA: 31 square feet
VESTIBULE AREA: 11 square feet
PEAK HEIGHT: 42 inches
POLES: 2 DAC Featherlite NSL

Mountain Hardwear Trango 2

Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 four season tents outside gear guy bob parks
Mountain Hardwear Trango 2   Photo: Courtesy of Mountain Hardwear

The two-person Trango 2 from Mountain Hardwear has the most generous features: two doors, two big vestibules, five sturdy poles, and a watertight construction that withstood 1,200 inches of rain in company tests. You pay for such comforts in a weight that tips the scales at more than three pounds heavier than the other tents in this lineup. $825

MINIMUM TRAIL WEIGHT: 8.8 pounds
FLOOR AREA: 41 square feet
VESTIBULE AREA:  11 square feet
PEAK HEIGHT:  41 inches
POLES: 5 DAC Featherlight NSL

Sierra Designs Convert 2

Sierra Designs Convert 2 outside gear guy bob parks four season tents
Sierra Designs Convert 2   Photo: Courtesy of Sierra Designs

The Covert 2 is one of the tallest two-person tents available, a nice feature if you want a little headroom, but not as aerodynamic as some lower-slung shelters on the market. Sierra Designs employs its own fabric tech in the fly to promote breathability while cutting wind and wet snow from outside. $460

MINIMUM TRAIL WEIGHT: 5.3 pounds
FLOOR AREA:
29 square feet
VESTIBULE AREA: 8.5 square feet
PEAK HEIGHT: 45 inches
POLES: 3 DAC Featherlite NSL

Marmot Alpinist 2P

Marmot Alpinist 2P outside gear guy bob parks four season tents
Marmot Alpinist 2P   Photo: Courtesy of Marmot

Marmot uses a custom-developed three-layer material in the Alpinist 2P, which breathes and repels water in harsh conditions. Ceiling vents in the single-wall construction promote air flow, and the unique design makes pitching in bad weather faster. $600

MINIMUM TRAIL WEIGHT: 4.9 pounds
FLOOR AREA: 30 square feet
VESTIBULE AREA: 8 square feet
PEAK HEIGHT: 40 inches
POLES: 3 DAC NSL Dual Diameter

Black Diamond Firstlight

Black Diamond Firstlight outside gear guy bob parks four season tents
Black Diamond Firstlight   Photo: Courtesy of Black Diamond

Among the lightest tents of its kind on the market, the 3.3-pound Firstlight features steep walls that both shed snow that might have fallen during your slumber and give you more headroom when you’re up and about. Mesh in the small rear window and the door provide cross ventilation. $360

MINIMUM TRAIL WEIGHT: 3.3 pounds
FLOOR AREA: 27.3 square feet
VESTIBULE AREA: 9 square feet (sold separately)
PEAK HEIGHT: 42 inches
POLES: 2 DAC Featherlite

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